Spring Vaccinations for Cattle

Spring Vaccinations for Cattle

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  Cattle General Health Care

Dr. Colleen Lewis / May 30, 2017

Your spring vaccination and processing program can include a few very important steps to maintain the health of your herd. The definition of spring vaccinations can vary depending if you are talking about fall born calves and early January and February show calves versus yearling heifers and bulls. Either way, being prepared to vaccinate, deworm and castrate your calves in the spring is a sound management tool to maintain healthy animals as they move through your production system. Often, this will be the last time your cows and calves are handled before headed to grass for the summer.

For calves 2 to 6 months, vaccinations should include two rounds of Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Parainfluenza Type 3 (PI3), Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV) and Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD). When given 3 to 6 weeks apart, the second injection (booster) will improve the immune status tremendously over just one injection. These upper respiratory vaccines are very important once the calf’s maternal antibodies begin to wear off and the calf’s own immune system begins to be competent. Complete these first three vaccine protocols prior to weaning your calves when possible.

The second group is called the seven-way blackleg (clostridium) vaccine. The individual diseases that are covered by this vaccine group are ubiquitous and very aggressive. There are still train wreck cases out there when this vaccine is dropped from protocols. Talk to your local veterinarian about adding strains as needed in your area: Cl. hemolyticum (red water disease), Cl. perfringens type A (jejunal hemorrhagic syndrome) or Cl. tetani (tetanus). Make sure you are having post mortems performed on animals that die of sudden death in order to tailor your vaccination program to fatal events in your operation. As with the upper respiratory vaccines, a single vaccination with most Clostridial vaccines does not provide adequate levels of protection and must be boostered within a period of 3 to 6 weeks from the initial vaccine. After the initial two shot series, an annual booster in adult cattle is sufficient.

If the calves are not going out to grass, and will be commingled, dry-lotted or both, the following vaccines are critical: Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida and Haemophilus somnus. These bugs are the big players in bovine respiratory disease (BRD) complex. Depending on the product and the likelihood of disease outbreak in your herd, a single vaccination (even though labeled as a single injection) may not be protective enough. Consider the past performance of your cattle, disease prevalence and risk when determining whether or not to add a booster to your protocol, regardless of product labeling.

Heifers need their official calfhood vaccination (OCV) against Brucellosis between 4 and 12 months of age, depending on the state regulations where you live. A veterinarian is charged with administering this vaccine. In most states, heifers that do not receive an OCV vaccination cannot be sold as a breeding animal after 12 months of age. Brucellosis causes Undulant Fever in humans and is under state control to prevent devastating economic losses to the beef industry.

Breeding stock born in the spring will be ready for their pre-breeding vaccinations in the following spring. Typically, two sets of vibrio and lepto vaccines should be on board prior to their first breeding. Leptospirosis is contagious from cow to cow; wild animals such as skunks, raccoons, opossums and rats can transmit the infection through their urine as well. Leptospirosis is also contagious to humans. Vibriosis is transmitted exclusively sexually; therefore, if there will not be a bull on your premise, you can skip this one. Now there is something you do not hear very often!

About the Author
Dr. Colleen Lewis is a 1996 graduate of Kansas State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. Her career has taken her to many places as a practice owner, consultant, embryologist, and mentor. She enjoys mixed animal practice, teaching, traveling, farming and high school sports with her husband, Andrew and their three boys.

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